How a Mashgiach Keeps a School Kitchen Kosher
Dave Glucksman, the mashgiach for the kitchen at the Barry Family Campus, shows off his Snoopy kippah, which he says the kids get a kick out of.
Dave Glucksman’s retirement job at the school inside St. Louis Park’s Sabes Jewish Community Center involves reading labels and making sure the lettuce is free of bugs. His skillset includes good eyesight—the kosher symbols are tiny and more than 100 different organizations are certified, he says—and attention to detail to ensure milk and meat don't cross-contaminate. That involves maintaining two separate cook areas and “koshering” equipment when they switch over. To make it a bit easier, the school week is divided into two meat days and three milk days.
Glucksman’s official title is mashgiach. He’s not required to be a rabbi, but he does need to be shomer shabbat, Judaism’s term for observing the Sabbath commandments from dusk on Friday until sunset Saturday. His offsite supervisor is Rabbi Shimon Perez at Minnesota Kosher. If Glucksman encounters a symbol on the packaged food that he’s not familiar with, he takes a picture of it with his phone and sends it to the rabbi for clarification.
Spices are labeled meat or dairy and are never shared.
When his own kids were growing up, the family wasn’t as strict. “My wife and I brought up the kids in a conservative home, not kosher,” he says. But then his son, who is now a rabbi, started spending the weekends with a friend who lived closer to the synagogue so that he could keep shomer shabbat. The Glucksmans decided if they wanted to see their son on weekends, they needed to move to St. Louis Park and become observant. While the religious laws around keeping Shabbat are complex, they include not driving or turning on your cell phone. "It’s to rejuvenate, charge up your batteries, to study,” he explains about the time period. Also avoided is using electricity (no TV, computers or air conditioning). He also had to make his home kitchen kosher.
At the school, there are two parve ovens, which are neutral, and two convection ovens that are sealed when not being used to avoid accidental cross-contamination. The walk-in cooler is for meat, and the refrigerator for dairy. Each side of the kitchen has its own spices, clearly labeled either milk or meat. The dishwasher has to be koshered when the meat day switches to milk, by running a full cycle with nothing in it. Pots and pans are blowtorched or sit in a 500-degree oven for at least 30 minutes. There are other observances that Glucksman doesn’t encounter in his workplace, such as the proper way to slaughter animals.
He’s quick to add he's not the cook, although he does wash dishes. His supervisor does all the food prep, minus one chore, washing lettuce. Animal life and produce is another taboo.
Glucksman didn’t start out to be a mashgiach, he just “fell into it,” he says. He was working for a financial institution and his job went overseas. His rabbi offered him a job at their school, which altered his career path. His degrees aren't in religious studies, but in wildlife biology and photography. “I wanted to be a wildlife photographer,” he says.
He came by his retirement career naturally. His mother was a home ec teacher and his father was career military, which was unusual for a Jewish man at that time, Glucksman says. While stationed in Germany, his father’s job was to aid health inspectors by insuring public swimming pool chlorine levels were up to snuff and the local restaurants met Americans' standards, he says. “My mother could have been a Martha Stewart,” he says. “I grew up with people who love kitchens.”